- Golden visas allow foreign persons to become residents or citizens of the United States by investing substantial sums of money.
- Several EU and Schengen nations provide golden visa programmes to rich international investors.
Golden visas are a form of special visa or residence arrangement for rich foreign people in Europe. They necessitate a significant investment in the country.
Visitors entering the European Union (EU) and the Schengen Area must have either an ETIAS visa waiver (from November 2023) or a Schengen visa, although the regulations are different for foreign people who seek to relocate to or achieve citizenship in a European country.
Several EU and Schengen nations have golden visa programmes that allow international investors to become citizens.
The EU Commission, on the other hand, has issued a recommendation asking Member States to discontinue any existing residence-by-investment (also known as ‘EU golden visa’) programmes.
WHAT IS A GOLDEN VISA IN EUROPE?
A golden visa is a form of authorization that allows you to live, work, and even become a citizen of another nation. It is focused on investment and is generally directed at the rich.
The Golden Visa Foreign nationals can become residents through immigration programmes by purchasing property in the country or making a big investment or contribution. The amount of money that must be invested varies by state or region.
A number of European nations have golden visa programmes. This comprises a number of EU and Schengen Area member nations.
BENEFITS OF EUROPEAN GOLDEN VISAS
Foreigners can benefit from European Golden Visas in a variety of ways.
For starters, those who invest in an EU/Schengen nation and seek for a golden visa become legal residents of that country. Their spouses and children will be granted residence as well. They can then accomplish the following:
- Live in the country
- Receive education in the country
- Gain access to the country’s healthcare system
Golden visa holders can petition for citizenship after a specific term of residency. The period of time until this is feasible varies by nation.
One of the major benefits of obtaining a golden visa for an EU or Schengen nation is that becoming a resident allows the individual unfettered mobility across the union. They will be able to travel without a visa to any of the 26 Schengen Area member states.
Foreign nationals who are not Schengen residents must have a visa or, beginning in November 2023, apply online for an ETIAS visa waiver.
BRITISH CITIZENS AND EUROPEAN RESIDENCY BY INVESTMENT AFTER BREXIT
Following Brexit, EU golden visas are becoming a more attractive alternative for British passport holders.
UK nationals can regain some of the benefits of European citizenship lost as a result of Brexit by gaining residence through investment in an EU member.
COVID-19 AND INCREASED INTEREST IN GOLDEN PASSPORTS
The epidemic has fuelled global interest in golden passport programmes.
COVID-19 has highlighted the potential benefits of dual citizenship, with most nations allowing citizens to enter during border restrictions.
More people are hoping to obtain a second citizenship, which will allow them to roam more freely during times of crisis.
WHAT EU/SCHENGEN COUNTRIES OFFER GOLDEN VISAS?
A number of nations in the European Union and/or the Schengen Area provide golden visas to foreign investors.
These include the following states, which are both EU and Schengen members:
The following Schengen member nation has a golden visa scheme that is not part of the EU:
The following EU member state has a golden visa but is not a member of the Schengen Area:
- The Republic of Ireland
HOW TO OBTAIN EU RESIDENCY & CITIZENSHIP
Wealthy individuals from outside the EU and Schengen Area can obtain residency by investing in different ways. The exact rules depend on the country, but the following options are frequently available:
- Invest in or set up a business
- Buy government bonds
- Purchase or invest in property
- Make donations to projects and organisations in the country
In some cases, EU citizenship can also be obtained through investment, however the EU is urging the few countries left with this scheme to end it. Other states usually allow residents to apply for citizenship after a certain period of time living in the country.
EU GOLDEN VISAS BY COUNTRY
The following information is about golden visa systems in EU nations. As seen, each golden visa nation necessitates a different degree of investment.
AUSTRIA RESIDENCE BY INVESTMENT
Austria is widely regarded as having one of the most popular Residency by Investment programmes. The Austrian Golden Visa is accessible to any foreign national in exchange for a considerable financial investment.
In Austria, a minimum of €40,000 must be invested. Individuals must wait 1-3 months after submitting their Golden Visa application for approval.
It is possible to seek for citizenship after ten years of residency.
Alternatively, citizenship by investment can be obtained directly. To qualify, a foreign national must either invest €10 million in a firm or provide at least €3 million to a government development fund.
BELGIUM BUSINESS RESIDENCE PROGRAM
In essence, the Belgium Business Residence Program is a golden visa. It enables entrepreneurs and investors to establish firms and get residence in Belgium.
Nationals of any country are eligible to apply. There is no requirement to physically dwell in the nation to be considered a resident.
To apply, foreign nationals must invest a minimum of €350,000.
It is possible to become a Belgian citizen after staying in the country for 5 years. Passing a language test in either Dutch, French, or German is required.
BULGARIA GOLDEN VISA
Bulgaria recently phased off its citizenship-by-investment programme.
Previously, Bulgarian golden visas were granted to non-EU persons who spent at least €525,000.
A €1.05 million investment was required for golden passports.
Bulgaria aims to join the Schengen Area shortly by ending these golden passport programmes.
CYPRUS GOLDEN VISA
The Republic of Cyprus had a famous Golden Visa scheme that allowed foreign nationals and their family to earn residency and citizenship in the country by investing.
The residency-by-investment scheme in Cyprus was stopped in 2020.
Foreign investors must now become Cyprus residents before applying for citizenship.
GREECE GOLDEN VISA
The Golden Visa Program in Greece permits non-EU people to get a residence visa.
This can be accomplished in the following ways:
- Invest in property worth at least €250,000 plus taxes
- Agree to a 10-year lease of tourist residences or hotel accommodation
- Agree to a 10-year time-share in hotel accommodation
- Make a minimum contribution of €400,000 to a company in Greece
- Buy Greek government bonds with at least €400,000
- Purchase shares, corporate bonds, and/or Greek government bonds with a minimum acquisition value of EUR 800,000
- Deposit at least €400,000 in a domestic credit institution for a minimum period of 1 year
Foreign investors can obtain a residency visa in Greece within 30-60 days. This is then renewable every five years.
It is possible to seek for citizenship after living in Greece for seven years.
IRELAND IMMIGRANT INVESTOR PROGRAMME
The Republic of Ireland’s Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) allows non-EU people to obtain a Golden Visa, commonly known as an Ireland Investor Visa.
A minimum of €1 million must be invested in a business or investment fund.
Foreigners can also give a non-refundable contribution of €500,000 to a project in Ireland that benefits the arts, culture, education, health, or sport.
ITALY RESIDENCE BY INVESTMENT SCHEME
The Italian residence by investment scheme can be accessed in the following ways:
- €500,000 investment in an Italian limited company
- €250,000 invested into an innovative start-up based in Italy
- €2,000,000 invested in Italian government bonds
- €1,000,000 philanthropic donation
MALTA GOLDEN VISA
Malta’s Golden Visa scheme is one of the most popular ways to get European residence via investment.
Applicants seeking residence must have a minimum capital of €500,000 (with at least €150,000 in financial assets). They must then invest in Malta in the following areas:
- Buy property worth at least €350,000 (€300,000 in South Malta or Gozo) or lease property for €12,000 per year (€10,000 per year in South Malta or Gozo)
- Donate €28,000 (if the property is purchased) or €58,000 (if the property is leased) to the Maltese economy
- Donate €2,000 to a non-governmental organisation
- Pay €40,000 as an administration fee (non-refundable)
Before applying for citizenship, the majority of third-country nationals must stay in Malta for 36 months.
To become a Maltese citizen, you must make a minimum contribution of €600,000 in the country’s national development fund. In Malta, a residential property must be acquired for at least €700,000 and kept for at least 5 years. A payment of €10,000 to a non-governmental organisation is also required.
Following safety concerns, the EU Commission has urged Malta to discontinue its citizenship by investment initiative. Malta is one of just a few EU nations that still provides a golden passport to non-EU citizens.
PORTUGAL GOLDEN VISA
Portugal, because to its Golden Visa system, is the simplest country in the EU to obtain EU citizenship for.
Foreign nationals seeking residence in Portugal might do so by investing in one of the following:
- Support of artistic production or maintenance of Portuguese cultural heritage (minimum €250,000)
- Scientific or technological research done by public or private entities in Portugal (minimum €350,000)
- Purchase of units of investment funds or venture capital funds (minimum €350,000)
- Transfer of a minimum of €1 million into a Portuguese bank account
- Property purchase (minimum €500,000; minimum €350,000 for the renovation of properties over 30 years old)
- Business, creating at least 10 new jobs
Investors can seek for Portuguese citizenship after 5 years as a legal resident in Portugal. They are not required to give up any current citizenship (i.e. they can hold dual nationality).
SPAIN RESIDENCE-BY-INVESTMENT PROGRAM
Spain’s Residence-by-Investment Program is well-regarded, and many international investors use it to become EU residents.
Foreign nationals can get residency in Spain by investing in one of the following options:
- Buy real estate worth at least €500,000
- Create and develop a business project in Spain
- Invest in company shares or make bank deposits in Spanish institutions of at least €1 million
- Purchase government bonds of at least €2 million in value
The residency permit is obtained in around 20 days. They are good for two years and may be renewed for another five. The permit is valid for the investor, his or her spouse or partner, and any dependant children (and grandchildren).
After ten years, the majority of foreign residents can petition for citizenship.
After two years, the following can:
- Sephardi Jews
- Citizens of Equatorial Guinea
- Nationals of Latin American countries
- Nationals of the Philippines
SWITZERLAND GOLDEN VISA
Switzerland is a popular choice for investors looking for a place to live because of its excellent healthcare system and business-friendly environment.
Foreigners can obtain a Golden Visa for Switzerland in two ways:
- Set up a company in Switzerland that provides jobs and opportunities for locals
- Pay an annual tax of CHF 150,000-1,000,000, depending on the canton
EU POSITION ON GOLDEN VISA SCHEMES
The EU has often expressed alarm over golden visa programmes. There have been suspicions of corruption in the issuance of residency permits and even citizenship to European nations.
Golden passports are frequently promoted as a method to enjoy the benefits of European citizenship, such as unrestricted movement throughout the EU.
This, however, creates security problems. Foreign nationals who get European citizenship via investment can travel freely across the Schengen Area. Only the nation that granted them residency/citizenship screens them.
EU AUTHORITIES CALL FOR AN END TO GOLDEN PASSPORTS
Members of the European Parliament have called for the abolition of golden passports and the implementation of new regulations for EU golden visas.
MEPs accepted a legislative initiative report noting the difficulties connected with these schemes on March 9, 2022.
On March 29, the Commission published a recommendation “urging Member States to promptly revoke any current investor citizenship schemes and to ensure adequate measures are in place to address the dangers presented by investor residency schemes.”
“We feel that the selling of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is unlawful under EU law and poses major threats to our security,” said Didier Reynders, the European Commission’s commissioner for Justice.
END GOLDEN PASSPORTS
Citizenship-by-investment schemes, according to MEPs, are “objectionable from an ethical, legal, and economic standpoint, and pose multiple major security threats.” Golden passports, they say, must be phased away.
REGULATE EU GOLDEN VISAS
In addition, the draught report urged action to standardise standards for’residence by investment’ given by EU member states. The goal is to keep money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion at bay.
Background checks, reporting, and minimum physical residence requirements for candidates are among the proposed new restrictions.
GOLDEN PASSPORTS AND VISA-FREE ACCESS TO THE EU
A similar problem applies with third-country visa waiver arrangements with the EU.
Non-EU, non-Schengen nations with golden visa programmes that allow foreigners to quickly attain citizenship by investment include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
Citizens of nations with golden visas can enter the EU without a visa and remain for up to 90 days.
However, Vanuatu was excluded from the EU visa waiver programme due to concerns about the rigour with which it vets people granted citizenship.
The Cyprus Golden Visa programme has been terminated due to difficulties emanating from the amount of foreign investors who were fraudulently awarded citizenship.
After rising pressure to phase out these programmes, the European Commission (EC) is claimed to be scrutinising the issuance of golden visas in EU member states.